Row Your Way to Color with Annuals Revisited

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Last July I featured a very creative use of annuals by Handy Boat Marina in Falmouth Foreside, Maine. They used a dinghy as a container and filled it to the brim, accenting the whole arrangement with a cleverly placed pair of oars. To read my previous post and see last year’s planting, click Row Your Way to Color with Annuals. When I arrived this year, I was happy to see that the dinghy was once again planted but with totally different plants.


What I like so much about this design is the creative use of the boat as a container. If you read my miniature hosta posts, you know that I am always advocating thinking outside the box when it comes to receptacles for plants. As Handy Boat demonstrates, there is no need to buy expensive pots when an old dinghy is available. And containers that fit the surrounding area, like a boat at a marina, always contribute to the sophistication of the design.


Another container design principle that this planting illustrates is the importance of stuffing your pots full of plants. Annuals are, well, annual. You have a short season to enjoy them so you don’t want to wait for them to fill out like you would a perennial. If you are on a budget, grow the plants from seed or do less pots but don’t skimp on the plants.


Finally, as I pointed out last year, the designer has used the spiller-filler-thriller method of choosing plants, and the color combination is gorgeous. Spilling out the front (or about to spill when they get bigger) are white lobelia and purple-leafed sweet potato vine. Filling the middle of the boat are red geraniums, purple petunias, and red compact New Guinea impatiens. Providing the thrill (otherwise known as the height) are purple angelonia, white cleome, and purple fountain grass. Here are some close up photos.



Enjoy, Carolyn


Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed and will reopen in the fall around September 15. Have a great summer.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

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29 Responses to “Row Your Way to Color with Annuals Revisited”

  1. I was just thinking about you today and wondering if you were in Maine yet, and here’s my answer. Any chance of you getting over to the mainland? I’ll be here 5 more weeks before I have to head back to PA in August one last time.

  2. All your advice is really helpful. I’m not that good a designing pots well, and I don’t think ahead. My pots of lilies were lovely this year and the winter pots were good but now, they are sad looking things.

    • Christina, Containers are a fun way to experiment with plants, textures, and colors. They satisfy the plant addict in me. Your gardens are so beautiful that I am sure you could create some lovely container combinations. Carolyn

      • nwphillygardner Says:

        Yes, Carolyn…..good thought. For those budding gardeners insecure about their abilities to make great plant combinations in their garden beds, containers are a perfect way to play around and build confidence. Visiting a good retail nursery that sell ample varieties of “premium annuals” allow you the opportunity to just gang different combinations together. You can do lots of trial and error combos until you feel you’re ready to take them home for your pot (or creative planter) at home.

      • Eric, My reply seems to have vaporized. Even when buying perennials, my customers often assemble a grouping at my nursery to see if everything works and how much space it the plants will use. Carolyn

  3. Oh my word! How beautiful! The colours are so perfect together! I just love what you did here!

  4. I like using larger, unusual containers for annuals. I have an old wheelbarrow that I repurposed as a planter and it works well. I like the boat planting.

    Nice meeting you in SF. Jason

  5. They did a nice job again like last year. Hope you are having a good time.

  6. Carolyn, I need to search the attic, basement, and garage to add a little pizazz to my container garden. I look at the dinghy and realize I am far too conventional. P. x

  7. I may have to steal this idea.

  8. What a fun, luxuriant arrangement! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Carolyn, I may be short of unusual containers but I share your enthusiasm for annuals which brighten up parts of the garden often before the Roses or perennials get going over here.
    The boat looks sensational.

  10. I loved seeing this container again with its new plants….great colors and foliage….I will be looking at my throw aways as possible containers…and I am terrible about filling pots…I need to add more plants 🙂

  11. Good comment about not using skimpy annuals and then waiting for them to grow, a mistake I have made more than once! I love the combination of colors in this arrangement.

  12. Skeeter Says:

    This is the most beautiful boat I have ever seen!

  13. […] leaves of the Pennisetum ‘Prince’ with the pink Cleome and purple Salvia. I think that this combo on Carolyn’s Shade Garden is interesting for the same reasons.  Sarah Raven also makes some great suggestions for Cleome […]

  14. […] leaves of the Pennisetum ‘Prince’ with the pink Cleome and purple Salvia. I think that this combo on Carolyn’s Shade Garden is interesting for the same reasons.  Sarah Raven also makes some great suggestions for Cleome […]

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